City staff drew on experience with windstorm response

Lending a hand in other recent disasters provided valuable training for the city’s windstorm

City of Red Deer staff drew on their experiences from Fort McMurray wildfire front lines when responding to this week’s windstorm.

About 90 city staff were directly involved in Fort McMurray. Besides firefighters, staff from emergency call centres, water treatment, and social services lent a hand.

“From that, they’ve had tremendous experience and training,” said city manager Craig Curtis on Friday.

“There’s nothing better than on-site training, even though it is under very unfortunate circumstances.”

Karen Mann, director of the city’s emergency operations centre, was among those who went to Fort McMurray.

“It was great hands-on experience,” said Mann, “and it was something we built into the way we respond to emergencies here.

“Our experience in Fort McMurray, as well as the 2013 floods, has taught us a lot.”

In recent years, city staff also took part in the response to the 2011 Slave Lake wildfire, which destroyed a third of the town.

Mayor Tara Veer said this week’s experience has proven that early planning is crucial to responding to emergencies effectively.

“Emergency preparedness has been a priority for us,” said Veer.

“I was incredibly proud of our efforts. We mobilized within minutes with the emergency operations centre.”

Likewise, front-line emergency responders and other city staff were in action before the windstorm, which hit about 7:10 p.m., was over.

When staff have had a chance to take a breath, debriefings will be held to see what lessons can be learned.

The post-windstorm review will also involve the community.

“I will say that probably one of our outcomes from this will be another debrief with our community in terms of the importance of emergency preparedness,” said the mayor.

“Having 72 hours of personal preparedness is absolutely essential so you can look after your loved ones.”

This experience will also be used to promote the city’s mass notification system, Notify Red Deer.

About 5,500 residents are already signed up and many have given good reviews to the service, which delivered more than 40,000 calls and text messages, good reviews.

To register go to the city’s website at www.reddeer.ca.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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